MCS Students Earn Education and Research Awards-Mellon College of Science - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

MCS Students Earn Education and Research Awards

Lisa Alexander, Brian Kell and Duff Neill
Lisa Alexander, Brian Kell and Duff Neill

The Mellon College of Science (MCS) presented its awards for education and research during the college’s annual faculty meeting on Monday, May 7. Winners included Lisa Alexander, Brian Kell, Duff Neill, Udom Sae-Ueng and Mingjiang Zhong.

Lisa Alexander received the Dr. J. Paul Fugassi and Linda E. Monteverde Award, which is presented to a graduating female senior with the greatest academic achievement and professional promise. According to her advisor Karen Stump, Alexander is “an intellectual superstar and an outstanding researcher.” Alexander began doing undergraduate research during her first semester at Carnegie Mellon and has since worked on a number of research projects. At CMU she investigated the role ribosomal proteins play in the assembly of yeast ribosomes in Professor John Woolford’s lab, and she synthesized an environmentally-friendly catalyst that breaks down pollutants in the Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry Terry Collins’ lab. For two summers, Alexander worked on a biofuels project at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. As a EuroScholar she spent a semester at the University of Zurich where she synthesized artificial amino acids. All told, Alexander is the co-author on five research papers that are in print, under review or being submitted for publication. She is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, the Science and Humanities Scholar program and the CMU women’s Ultimate Frisbee team. She will receive a B.S. in chemistry with a minor in biological sciences at this spring’s commencement. She plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.

Brian Kell, a graduate student in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, received the Hugh D. Young Graduate Teaching Award, which recognizes effective teaching by graduate students. Students passing by Kell’s office will often notice puzzles and “mathematical oddities” posted on his door. This is just one piece of evidence that points to Kell’s desire to expand his students’ mathematical awareness and enthusiasm for the subject. Kell has taught a wide range of mathematics courses for a wide variety of audiences: engineering and science students, humanities students, Qatari high school students, and gifted elementary school students in the C-MITES program. His students praise his ability to inspire and engage them, and give them a new perspective on math. “The way [he] presented each topic in class made us think about things in completely new ways, so that itself made learning about all of the topics, even the ones I didn’t like, worth it,” said a student. Kell’s nominators say he puts a tremendous amount of work into creating materials, including study materials, review sheets and even a website, for his classes. But underlying this dedication and effort is a real talent for teaching. According to TA supervisor Deb Brandon, “Brian is a natural teacher; all his instincts are right on the mark.”

The Guy C. Berry Graduate Research Award, which recognizes excellence in research by MCS graduate students, was presented to Duff Neill, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Physics. Neill is formulating accurate predictions of how the Higgs boson, an elusive particle predicted but never seen, will be produced at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Theoretical predictions like those Neill is working on can forecast all the parameters of a collision and estimate how many Higgs particles will be produced. “There has been a tremendous amount of work done on the subject of Higgs production for the past 20 years or so,” said Neill’s research advisor Professor Ira Rothstein. “Making an original contribution to the subject, no matter how small, is no easy task. Yet that is exactly what Duff did. His calculations will increase the theoretical precision for the production rate, which will help us understand the properties of the Higgs particle.” Neill was one of only two graduate students to receive the 2010 LHC Theory Initiative Award from the National Science Foundation. He also received a Department of Energy graduate fellowship to support his research. This Fall, Neill will begin his postdoctoral work at MIT, where he was recently named a Papallardo Fellow.

Graduate students Udom Sae-Ueng and Mingjiang Zhong were recognized for receiving the Astrid and Bruce McWilliams Graduate Fellowship. To read more about Sae-Ueng and Zhong, please visit:

By: Amy Pavlak